Countries need to adopt a range of affirmative action tools that need to be constantly updated to ensure gender equality becomes a reality

Societies need to focus on key game-changers if countries are serious about transforming gender equality in the future world of work.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the economic and social imperative of gender equality can no longer be questioned.

“Yet the frustratingly slow pace of change over the last several decades, despite legal and institutional measures to prohibit discrimination and promote equal treatment and opportunity, highlights the structural barriers that still need to be overcome,” the ILO says in its recently released Global Commission on the Future of Work report.

It says women continue to have to adjust to a world of work shaped by men for men. While many doors have opened to improve women’s participation in the labour market, they still perform three-quarters of all unpaid care work.

Also, while women in many countries are often encouraged to enter male-dominated fields, men are rarely encouraged to enter traditionally female occupations. This is because the work that women do, is often viewed as “secondary” to the work of men, despite the number of female-headed households across the world.

The report says another concern is that the struggle for gender equality remains in large part a “women’s issue”.

While stats differ across the world, women are generally paid around 20% less than men. But money is not the only issue.

The ILO believes that for gender equality to truly succeed it needs to begin in homes.

The document recommends adopting policies that promote the sharing of care and domestic responsibilities between men and women. This needs to include establishing and expanding leave benefits which encourage both parents to share care responsibilities equally.

“It will require greater investment in public care services to ensure a balanced division of care work, not only between men and women but also between the State and the family. In many countries, investments in other public services can lessen the time dedicated to unpaid work such as fetching water.

“We recommend efforts to ensure accountability for progress on gender equality. What we measure matters. Taking into account that unpaid care work can transform thinking about its value and provide a more accurate picture of national and global wellbeing,” the report reads.

Also, pay transparency policies, including mandated reporting requirements and measures that protect the right of workers to share information, will show the extent of gender-based pay differences and help ensure it is properly addressed.

The ILO believes that a range of affirmative action tools, including quotas, targets and equality plans, must be developed, measured and constantly updated to ensure they remain relevant in the fight against gender inequalities.

It is critical that women participate in decision making and that their representation and leadership are strengthened. This is whether in the formal or informal economy, in government, workers’ organisations, employers’ organisations or cooperative ventures.

The organisation says that technology can play a powerful role in achieving gender equality.

“Mobile phones can facilitate knowledge of, and access to, employment opportunities. Access to finance and credit through mobile banking can provide a tremendous boost to women’s entrepreneurship in the rural economy,” the document reads.

A major concern is that emerging evidence reveals that new business models in the digital economy are perpetuating gender gaps. It says measures need to be adopted to ensure equal opportunity and equal treatment of women in the technology-enabled jobs of the future.

“The skills of today will not match the jobs of tomorrow and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete. Left to its current course, the digital economy is likely to widen both regional and gender divides. And the crowd-working websites and app-mediated work that make up the platform economy could recreate nineteenth-century working practices and future generations of ‘digital day labourers’,” the ILO warns.

It says countless opportunities lie ahead to improve the quality of working lives, close the gender gap, and reverse the damages of global inequality. But for this to happen, all partners will need to get on board.

The World Economic Forum has warned that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is either going to smash or deepen gender inequality.

If nothing is done to uplift women, it warns that as robots and artificial intelligence transform global production, skilled workers with college degrees will emerge the winners.

But this means that the benefits will be distributed unevenly, and it is primarily women – from high-school dropouts to college graduates – who find the odds heavily stacked against them.

This is also because the majority of the world’s working women are restricted to insecure and informal employment. Globally, only half of working-age women are in the labour force, and those that work earn a quarter less than male counterparts in the same jobs.

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